Fact Of The Matter
So, as I write, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has been given a second clean bill of health by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), emphasising that the incidence of blood clots is actually much lower than in the general population and that the vaccine is safe. Many nations outside the EU do not concur, with the UK saying the blood clot is a risk for anyone under 30, particularly women.
The science is sound behind the various vaccinations, say those in the white lab coats, but who can be trusted?
Okay so, but it is not just about the science. Every vaccine carries risk. The ordinary flu jab does. The daily-taken contraceptive pill carries risks of blood clotting. My new granddaughter got her first of the series of six-in-one shots the other week and I was beside myself with worry that she would be fine. She is.
This is not about the science but rather about public trust. There are in Ireland, and globally, people — and I don’t mean the lunatic fringe — who have genuine concerns that decisions made by governments and medical and scientific experts do not take adequate notice of. Concerns about side-effects or potency or long-term viability or blood clots or effects on fertility.
Such concerns, and vaccine hesitancy, is perhaps more widespread among non-caucasian communities and among those who see themselves as marginalised. Education has a role to play here but so too has a united and concise approach to explaining all the pros and cons of any of the vaccines, however minute the cons might be.
It does not help that every time the media roll out the experts, no two opinions concur. That’s fair enough but, understandably, it fuels people’s concerns and can prove a field day for the fear mongers. The truth is we don’t know enough yet about the coronavirus and how to deal with it long-term.
The EMA’s decision to have adopted a precautionary approach to AstraZeneca is to be applauded but the agency never called for a halt to its roll-out. That decision was taken by individual countries; Ireland too, where in January alone more than 1,000 people died from Covid-19.
The blood clot concerns have arguably set a trend in that every time someone sneezes after being given a vaccine, countries will call a halt, pending another investigation, which is not at all good.
There has to be an agreed consensus on risk. We need better streaming of all the evidence, good and bad. We’re big enough to take it.
All the talk now is of who has got their first jab and who is still waiting and what group are you supposed to be in anyway. It’s now a mark of standing in the community if you can go on social media with a selfie with your jab cert, or post a picture of you pushing granny into the local surgery. All that is quite understandable. Such action is merely the result of having some reassurance that your aged relative, or you yourself, with underlying conditions, have now got a very good chance of keeping the rogue microbe at bay.
There’s lot of talk too of who should be getting the jab but isn’t. Should the Gardai be seen as frontline workers and moved up the queue? Likewise schoolteachers and all carers. The cohorts.
Judging by the growing cacophony of complaining, there is a new malaise among us, that of vaccine envy. Ergo, the debacles — if that is the word — over the Beacon and that school in Bray, the head honcho at VHI and now the shenanigans at the Coombe Hospital.
The Government promised too much and has delivered too little in the quoted timeframe, in fairness not entirely of their own doing. Frustration is just one of the many feelings this situation is causing, as is annoyance.
But jealousy? Really?
Yes,there’s that, too. “Vaccine envy is very real for some,” says my psychologist friend from Magherafelt. “The desire for a vaccine is all about self-preservation. When in survival mode, we humans can become selfish to some degree. It’s a switch in the brain.”
I have the Bus Pass the past two years and I have no underlying health issues. I am perfectly okay with waiting ‘til the cows come home for my jabs if it means those who are the really vulnerable are getting theirs.
That, alas, is not necessarily the case.